NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley today launches the Integrated Mental Health Atlas of Far West NSW, providing a region-wide view of local services and support available to people living with mental distress.
The Atlas, developed by researchers at the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre and funded by the NSW Mental Health Commission, reveals the region has good availability of mental health services but is vulnerable due to workforce issues.
The project is part of an international effort which for the first-time provides a consistent way to classify and geo-locate the range of mental health services on offer across health, social care, education, employment and housing.
Professor Luis Salvador-Carulla, Head of the Mental Health Policy Unit at the University of Sydney, said the biggest challenge facing the region was the fragility of services which relied on one or two qualified health professionals.
"While the amount of services is good when comparing to similar areas internationally, it is clear that we need a more skilled and qualified workforce," he said. "Otherwise there is risk of staff attrition, lack of supervision and inability to provide intensive care when required.
"Identifying this at the local level however means we can now plan for incentives and promote opportunities to encourage more health professionals to come to the area."
Mr Feneley said the Atlas provides a valuable source of information about the services on offer in one of the most sparsely populated areas of the state.
"We know that the mental health system can be difficult to navigate for consumers and families, and this is often also the case for service providers and decision makers trying to plan services, particularly with areas as vast as the Far West," he said.
"The Atlas allows us to identify local level strengths and gaps in the system through a rigorous classification and mapping system, and to feed this understanding into local service planning to improve mental health services across NSW and we welcome the availability of this resource."